September 19, 2021

Volume XI, Number 262


September 17, 2021

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China Takes The Air Out of Excessive Packaging

On August 10, 2021, China's State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) and the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) published the mandatory national standard, GB 23350-2021 on the"Requirements of Restricting Excessive Package - Foods and Cosmetics" (hereinafter "Standard").[1]  The Standard replaces the previous 2009 version and will take effect on September 1, 2023, subject to a two-year transition period for industry adoption.

Notably, the amended Standard updates certain terms and definitions, including the following:

  • "Excessive package"

  • "Package layer"

  • "Interspace ratio"

  • "Necessary spatial coefficient"

More importantly, the determination methods for some important concepts also are amended.  For example, the "interspace ratio" is one of the factors that determine whether a package would amount to an excessive package. This term refers to the ratio of the volume of unnecessary space (that is not occupied by the contents) to the total package volume. In the 2009 version, the interspace ratio is determined by product categories (e.g., for health foods, the interspace ratio must be no more than 50%). In the new Standard, however, the interspace ratio is determined according to the net content of a single product. For example, when the net content is more than 30 g but no more than 50 g, the interspace ratio must not exceed 40%.

In addition, the "necessary spatial coefficient" (i.e., the correction factor for the measurement of space required to protect food or cosmetics) has been revised. In the 2009 version, the necessary spatial coefficient was set as 0.6, whereas in the new Standard, separate values are assigned for different types of food and cosmetics. For example, 5.0 is set for beverages, 10.0 for biscuits, and 5.0 for toothpaste.

According to China's Standardization Law, products that do not meet mandatory standards may not be produced, sold, or imported. In addition, the Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastes that took effect on September 1, 2020, specifically requires that manufacturers and operators must comply with mandatory standards that restrict excessive packaging of commodities. Thus, after the two-year transition period expires, food and cosmetics that do not meet the new Standard will not be allowed to be manufactured and sold on the Chinese market. 

This is a clear signal by the Chinese government to strengthen the enforcement of restrictions on excessive packaging. Thus, industry should make use of the transition period to ensure compliance with the new Standard.

[1]See Announcement on National Standards of People's Republic of China (No. 9 of 2021), available at:

© 2021 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 256

About this Author

David J. Ettinger, Keller Heckman, Partner, Food and Drug Corporation, International Trade Lawyer, Attorney, Shanghai, China

David Ettinger joined Keller and Heckman in 1999. Mr. Ettinger represents domestic and foreign corporations in the area of food and drug law.

Mr. Ettinger relocated to Keller and Heckman's Shanghai office in November 2012 to focus on the Asian market and counsel companies in the Far East on food, drug, and chemical regulatory matters. He has extensive experience counseling clients on product development and product protection of food and drug packaging in the United States, Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America. From 2006-2007, Mr. Ettinger...

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Mark Thompson Business & Trade Attorney Keller Heckman

Mark Thompson advises a wide array of businesses and trade associations on global compliance requirements applicable to finished foods, food additives, food packaging materials, cosmetics, industrial chemicals, and associated labeling in Asia, the U.S., and the European Union. Mr. Thompson also has significant experience relating to the regulation of drugs and genetically modified organisms (GMO) in Asia. From 2009 through 2016, Mr. Thompson was based in Keller and Heckman’s Shanghai Representative office. During that time, he assisted foreign and domestic companies in evaluating and...

Eric Gu, Keller Heckman, China, Shanghai, Food packaging lawyer, Additives regulations Attorney

Eric Gu advises domestic and foreign clients on the requirements and regulations for a variety of consumer products, including foods, food additives, food packaging materials, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, and associated labeling, with a focus on China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and other Asian countries.

Prior to joining Keller and Heckman, Mr. Gu worked as an attorney in law firms in Shanghai and New York and acquired deep understanding of both China and U.S. laws and practice. While attending the University of Wisconsin Law School, Mr. Gu...

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Chen Hu , Keller Heckman, Scientist, Food Chemistry, Regulatory Compliance, Shanghai

Chen Hu joined Keller and Heckman in April 2009. He provides technical assistance in the area of food, food packaging, and chemical control, in matters related to regulatory compliance in Asian-Pacific regions.

Mr. Hu works closely with government authorities and trade associations in various phases of regulatory development. Mr. Hu has prepared and submitted hundreds of Chinese applications for registration of food packaging materials, food additives, new food ingredients, and new chemical substances. He is experienced in auditing plant...

86 21 6335 1000